One of the main obstacles that stand in the way of those who want to study in the United States is the high cost of higher education there. American colleges and universities set prices based on the abilities of their citizens. On average, a bachelor’s degree in the United States costs $8,000–$18,000, but many colleges can cost you as much as $30,000 per year. However, American funds are ready to issue scholarships or grants to some students under certain conditions. Every year, American colleges and universities receive more than 400,000 international students each year. About 7% of them receive help from the school, and 5-6% – from a sponsor or some foundation.
Types of Financial Aid for Domestic and International Students
There are several types of scholarships you can apply for. A usual “scholarship” is the most desirable form of material assistance since it usually does not involve any kind of response, except thanks. The scholarship is usually on account of tuition fees, but sometimes it may include living expenses. It can be paid by the state (for example, an organization funded from the state budget), the institution itself or its graduates’ fund, as well as any other fund.
Another type of scholarship is called “fellowship“. In this case, assistance is usually allocated through non-formal scientific societies, offering scholarships to graduate students, candidates and doctors of science involved in special projects in a particular area. Often fellowships are paid to members of various minorities who are underrepresented in a particular field of study – including women. There is, for example, a special scholarship for female students – the Delta Gamma Fellowship. In many cases, financial assistance programs of this kind are intended only for members of various organizations — for example, the American Historical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, or the Association of American Geographers. Being a member of such an organization is very prestigious, and foreigners are not always accepted in them.
You can also receive a “grant“. This is a scholarship of “top level”. The grant is usually allocated for a scientific project (research) and covers the entire cost of its implementation. The grant can be paid by any organization that specifically employs a student to conduct a study. In addition to the cost of the project, the grant usually includes the cost of transportation, accommodation and other related expenses. Many grant programs fund doctoral dissertations.
Another type of material support is “assistantship”. This is not actually a scholarship, because a certain work is required in return: the assistant undertakes to help the research supervisor or professor. The amount of work can be strictly specified – for example, 20 hours per week. Only graduate students can get such assistance. An assistantship is useful because a graduate student gets valuable work experience and it is easier for him to establish contacts with university professors. Most colleges hire “teaching assistants” to help with seminars, exam counseling, tests, etc., and if a postgraduate student specializes in a bachelor’s degree subject, he has a good chance to get this place.
In addition to scholarships, there are “loans“. This is the most common form of getting money to study at any university for citizens and permanent residents of the United States. Loans can be given by a state (they are called Stafford) or by a university. Such large and world-famous universities, such as Harvard, Princeton and others provide loans to future students from their budget. Loans are also divided into subsidiary and non-subsidiary. In the first case, interest begins to accrue after graduation, in the second – during it. Many graduates pay loans to universities for ten or even more years. In any case, it will be useful to use such loans, especially if you a foreign student. If you are not able to get a loan in the first year – do not be discouraged. Perhaps in a year or two, when you have a “credit history”, when you have acquaintances who are ready to vouch for you, you can get an ordinary loan at a local bank.
Another type of financial assistance is “sponsorship“. It can be obtained from a company, a charitable organization, or even an individual.
The scholarship can be obtained in the “hidden” form. For example, a university may, upon request, reduce the cost of higher education for you if you indicate in the application form that you cannot pay for your studies and need financial assistance. Discount at some private universities can be up to 50%.
Many colleges have a “gap system“. This means that there is a break in the payment of financial assistance to you, during which you must pay for your studies yourself. One of the ways to get out is to find a job for this time in the college campus.
How to get a scholarship?
One desire is not enough to get money in the USA. It is necessary to collect a whole set of documents that will be considered by the fundraising organization. The main document for getting scholarships is a completed standard application form. It can be obtained by request by mail or download from the site.
The next paper is a bank form. It must confirm that you cannot pay for university studies yourself.
You will also need a high school diploma and its certified copy in English, a transcript (if you have one), test results (for example, TOEFL) and recommendations. Some organizations require writing essays on various topics, such as “Why do I want to get an higher education?”, “My goals in life”, “Plans for future career”, etc. They may ask a question about your favorite book or about the person who most influenced you in life. As a rule, the purpose of such questions is to find out what kind of person you are, what you want from life, in what area you want to make a career and why, etc. It is also important how you express your thoughts and how convincing they are.
It should be noted that some funds and organizations offering scholarships to students require a fee for the application form that you must submit to participate in the program. The price of this document can vary from $25 to $45. So, before you send an application, find out whether you need to pay for it.
Administration of educational institutions usually tries to observe the principle of social justice. Also, if you were denied a scholarship in the first year of study, then it may be given in one of the following years. If you have already been given a scholarship in some fund, you may not be given it again. In any case, every college or university has its own “policy” of providing scholarships to foreign students. Therefore, first of all, choosing a college or university in the United States, study in detail its section “financial assistance to students” and find the most suitable option for you.
Many colleges grant scholarships to foreigners only with excellent academic performance. Your other merits can be taken into account: academic and other awards, thanks, achievements in music or sports, social activities. For example, the dean’s office of the private Depaw University was pleasantly surprised by Rano Burkhanova’s active public activities and excellent grades in school. The student was given a scholarship – but with the proviso that during all four years of study she would maintain her average mark at the proper level (Great Point Average, or GPA). Not the last role in obtaining scholarships are played by the results of such tests as TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) and SAT.
In any case, you need to apply for scholarships of different types and apply to the largest possible number of organizations.
Chances of getting financial help
In general, financial assistance is provided to applicants for graduate studies (Graduate Level), especially in the technical, computer and natural sciences. Private firms and US government agencies are interested in research conducted in these areas, and they allocate substantial financial resources to the university or faculty to conduct such research. These funds are provided to the best candidates in the form of Research Assistantship or Fellowship. You also need to know that 40% of Ph.D. in the field of technology and computer science are given to foreign students.
Significantly fewer opportunities exist in the humanities and social sciences: only a few graduate students are given the opportunity to work as Teaching Assistantship, which requires fluency in English.
Undergraduate Levels do not have such a narrow specialization and usually do not include studies. Therefore, there is less opportunity to receive financial assistance from universities or private foundations. Typically, financial assistance to foreign students can be provided by small private (Liberal Arts) colleges. Colleges accept students and provide financial assistance not only on the basis of their level of knowledge but also depending on other abilities (in music, sports, etc.).
The main thing is to get ready in advance. Do not postpone the question of getting financial assistance until the moment you enroll in a university. It makes sense to request questionnaires for the provision of financial assistance, along with application forms for admission.